The Stream

Is the crisis in DR Congo being ignored?

On Tuesday, December 22 at 19:30 GMT:
In a year where the coronavirus pandemic has dominated news coverage, public attention on slow-moving humanitarian crises around the world has been scant. In this episode of The Stream we’ll look at how millions of people are coping in three countries where conflict and insecurity continue to have a deadly impact.

DR Congo
Health officials working in DR Congo remain on alert for new cases of Ebola, a deadly virus that has killed thousands of people across the country. But while the most recent outbreak – DR Congo’s 11th –  has now been contained, millions of people still face the daily threat of violence stemming from long-running conflict between dozens of armed groups in the country’s eastern and south-central regions.

The fighting has fuelled the displacement of about 5 million people and has forced an estimated one million to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Burundi, Zambia and Angola, says UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. DR Congo also faces an effort to help an estimated 527,000 refugees who have entered the country after fleeing strife in countries such as Rwanda, Central African Republic and South Sudan. More than half are women and children.

Amid persistent local conflict, civilians are often killed or injured by armed groups, while women and girls face the constant threat of gender-based and sexual violence. And as the country tries to tackle a spike in coronavirus cases, the country’s government is on shaky ground, with President Félix Tshisekedi opposing allies of former president Joseph Kabila for control of national and provincial assemblies.

We’ll look at the country’s major challenges and what’s being done to help people in need.

More than five years have passed since a civil war began in Yemen, with Houthi fighters still battling government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition. Now with the country facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and an estimated 80 percent of the population needing at least some form of help, millions of people are on the brink of starvation.

Amid the conflict hospitals have been destroyed or damaged, cases of dengue fever in 2020 have increased over previous years, and researchers warn that the true total of Covid-19 infection cases may outstrip the number of confirmed cases.

Aid agencies and human rights groups say getting targeted assistance to civilians most in need remains extremely difficult, with Houthi fighters blocking the passage of emergency supplies. And while the Trump administration is now mulling over whether to designate the Houthis a terrorist group, aid agencies warn such a move would only further complicate the delivery of essential food, fuel and health supplies through Houthi-held areas to people who are barely surviving. Meanwhile, international funding to Yemen has collapsed.

We’ll hear from one Yemen researcher about what’s most urgently needed to address the humanitarian crisis.

Syria’s civil war is now in its tenth year, with government forces now fighting a range of opposition groups for control of Idlib governorate, which sits between the government-held northern provinces of Aleppo and Latakia. But amid the fighting, the UN is warning that millions of people across northern Syria face an “incredibly hard” winter with little access to adequate food, shelter, and heat.

An estimated 6.7 million people are internally displaced, and the UN now says about 9.3 million people across the country are food insecure – 1.4 million more than a year ago. With food prices rising in recent months and the government recently reducing subsidies on bread, it is likely the humanitarian crisis will deepen.

Public health workers are also battling to contain coronavirus in parts of the country. Hospitals in opposition-held Idlib are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and doctors and aid workers are worried about a rise in cases inside camps for displaced people that are already short of essential supplies.

A medical expert working to get urgently-needed relief to people in Syria joins us.

In this episode of The Stream we are joined by:
Claude Jibidar, @WFPDRC
Country Director, World Food Programme

Afrah Nasser, @Afrahnasser
Yemen Researcher, Human Rights Watch

Dr Zaher Sahloul, @sahloul
President, MedGlobal